Oakley 20 – 2017

By Kate Johnson

Oakley 20 is not my favourite race by a long shot, but I wanted to do another 20 mile race in the run up to London. It was on the right weekend for me, 3 weeks out and 4 weeks after my last 20 miler at MK.

The last time I ran this race it was 2014 and I was preparing for my first Marathon. I struggled to cover the distance and finished in 3:59:57, the marshals were trying to take me out of the race from about 17 miles, as they thought I wouldn’t finish. All in all a pretty soul destroying experience.

Fast forward to 2017, I am stronger, fitter and after a PB at both MK 20 and Sandy 10, I was almost looking forward to it……

Race day dawned warm and sunny and I was left wondering if I needed a hat, sunglasses, if my rocket fuel would work, would I fall apart at any point…..

I arrived at Oakley in plenty of time and found myself in the smallest car park full of huge SUV’s which left me the only option of reversing into a space. I only have a teeny car and my spatial awareness is not the greatest. After a 3 million point turn I managed to get my car wedged into the space. I was hoping that the other drivers would be really good runners and I would be able to escape the car park easily once the race was over.

I had a look at the race course and gulped. On the map it looked like a really long way. Oakley is a loop course, one 12 mile loop and one 8 mile loop. Last time I ran, I remember being at 8 miles and Glen Turner going past me, looking like he was running a 100m dash.

I dropped my bag and went to the start. I saw Elliot and realised this was going to be another race where a team mate goes striding past me before I get to halfway, at least I will get to shout at him and see how he is getting on!

The gun went and off I went. I knew I needed to be sensible 3 weeks from London, but didn’t really know what my strategy was in terms of pace. I decided to run it by feel more than anything else and see what happens.

The first three miles passed without too much trouble, nice and steady and under 10 min miles. As we approached the first water station I had a glucose tablet and was frustrated to see that the water station was water in cups rather than bottles. At £25 for an entry, this really irritated me as I knew to keep my self a chance of being hydrated I would need to take on as much water at each water station which would me slowing right down.

Miles four, five and six passed without incident, I was comfortable, there were lots of enthusiastic marshals out, my kit was not rubbing any where, only thing was missing was my 20 mile buddy Katie Stanton. I have to say there was no decent chat on this run!

Miles eight and nine re-join the route and I knew the faster runners would be coming through soon and I was not even at halfway. Would I make it to ten miles before Elliot cam through? Alas, no I made it to 9.75 before he caught me with a great fanfare. I saw the lead car go through and I knew he wouldn’t be far behind. I checked behind me and there he was. We yelled at each other and I moved to the middle of the road of a high five as he was out on his own. I shouted at him to run a 1:51 and then watched him head off into the distance.

I hit 10 miles and felt good. I just had to do the same again. Then sun had come out and I was a little warm, however the breeze had picked up and I was banking on that to keep me cool. I had been taking glucose tablets before each water station and then drinking the water and this seemed to be working well until I got to mile 12 and couldn’t get the tablets out of the tube they were in! I tipped the tube upside down and all the powder flew out and coated my vest and hands. So I now looked like I had had a fight with a box of icing sugar and still had ten miles to go. Why, can’t I just have a simple race with no challenges!

I went through mile 13 just slightly slower than my PB for a half, so after London I need to find a fast flat half to get under 2 hours. At mile 14 I felt good, but I was starting to get thirsty. Luckily, the water station was not to far ahead. Mile 15 was hard and I had to dig deep and get my head together, which I managed to do. Mile 16 was not fun either, but I was getting closer. I checked my Garmin and I was still on an average pace less than 10 min miles. I was pretty happy with that and I worked out I could run a pretty decent PB. I focused on keeping my pace under 10 min miles as much as possible for the final 4 miles. I got to 17 miles and knew it was only a parkrun to go. Mile 17 was the longest mile of the race. Where was the 18 mile marker? I swear they had hidden it. I was through 18 miles in under 3 hours just!

Two miles to go, all I had to do was hang on. I got caught up in the traffic and other runners going over the narrow bridge. At this point I handed over my sticky tube of glucose tablets to a marshal as I didn’t need them any more. I hit the 19 mile marker and was really thirsty, I knew I was really dehydrated and I was going to pay for it later in the day. I turned left into the housing estate and remembered that this race has the worst finish of any race I have ever done. Twists, turns, this way that way. Where is the finish? In the field. OK, I could see the field down an alley way, so I sprinted, only to discover I had to run round the field to finish. My legs were burning, I was hot, I wanted to go 3:15, it wasn’t going to happen. I crossed the line in 3:16:40 and I felt like I had been living in the Sahara for a month. I went on the hunt for water and could have drunk an entire bucket, but the marshal was not having it!

I drank a lot of water and then went to find my hoody. It is a striking shade of Mustard, which you could argue is better than white! I found Elliot and he said he had gone 1:52. I was really pleased for him.

3:16:40 was an average pace of 9:50 per mile. I had done a 44 min course PB and run 12 mins faster than the MK 20. Clearly actually training makes a difference and makes running in the dark cold and wet for the first 3 months of the year worth it!

Bring on London 2017.

Club Results:

Elliot Hind: 1:52:19 Club Record

Mark Adkins: 3:02:56

Kate Johnson: 3:16:40